Search form

Jacobs University’s researchers train astronauts

November 13, 2017

Usually they give lectures to students. But at the end of November Prof. Dr. Angelo Pio Rossi and Prof. Dr. Vikram Unnithan from Jacobs University will train astronauts from the European Space Agency, ESA, in Lanzarote. The two geologists are part of a larger group of researchers who are providing background on geology and geophysics to the space travelers.

Pangea is the name of ESA’s training program. Its extension with additional geophysical and instrumentation training is called “Pangea-X”. The aim of the training program is, among others, to ensure that astronauts are able to take the correct rock samples for further scientific analysis on Earth in future missions to the Moon, Mars or asteroids. For instance, they have to identify individual rock types and be able to determine the best areas for taking samples. The German astronaut Matthias Maurer and Pedro Francisco Duque from Spain will be among the astronauts participating in the training.

“Highly sophisticated measuring instruments and tools such as scanners, drones, remote-controlled vehicles and spectrometers will be used,” says Prof. Rossi. A drone from Jacobs University will provide a topographic map of the surface. 3-D views of the lava caves found at Lanzarote as well as on Mars or the Moon can be created with the help of laser scanners. Like on Mars, some of them are large enough to accommodate streets. On the Moon, they can house entire cities. Special electrodes are used to measure the properties and structure of the substrate.

The purpose of the geological field training is also to improve communication between astronauts and scientists, who will assist them from Earth during expeditions. For Rossi and Unnithan it is the first time that they are teaching astronauts. “The astronauts were trained with great success in the fundamentals of geology for the Apollo mission in the past. We are now doing something similar and supplementing the training with geophysics and the latest technologies. Such training can make a valuable contribution to the explorations on Mars,” says Prof Rossi.

Both are recognized experts in the geology of our Solar System. The scientific publishing house, Springer is publishing the book “Planetary Geology” by Angelo Pio Rossi and Stephan van Gasselt, which will provide a geoscientific overview of solid Solar System bodies and their evolution, at the end of the year. According to Rossi, the geological histories of planets and moons is the key to understanding the solar system as a whole.

More information:

Questions will be answered by:
Dr. Angelo Pio Rossi | Professor of Earth and Planetary Science
an.rossi [at] | Tel.: +49 421 200-3153

Planetary Geology, edited by Angelo Pio Rossi and Stephan van Gasselt, Springer, ISBN 978-3-319-65177-4

copyright: Jacobs University
copyright: Jacobs University